[A/N: It was hard thinking up a lot of names that started with H (because apparently the Hyuugas like names that begin with H... Hiashi, Hizashi, Hinata, Hanabi, and Hyuuga itself... jeez! Except Neji of course, and I bet Hizashi gave him an N name as a means of changing the Hyuuga destiny of carrying the initials H. H ) So, I went and added weird names that started with N XD
The story takes place about 4 years after the timeskip. So the Rookie 9 would be around 20, and Team gai 21... sorta.
This might get a little detective-ish in the future.
Okidokes! (PS feedback is very welcome)]
Rated M for later chapters (blood, violence, etc)
Hiashi's legs buckled under him. His vision faded out of focus, the surrounding Hyuuga compound training grounds beginning to look like a massive watercolor painting that had been fished right out of a swimming pool. Yes, colors seemed to be streaking down in blurry columns right before his eyes. The pain in his side pulsed once again and shot through his system like an angry bolt of lightning. Not again…
Neji's voice rang clear in his ears. He felt his nephew's hands support his head just as the rest of his body tumbled onto the hard dusty earth. His vision had gone black. His body refused to heed his mind when he commanded it to move. The pain still pulsed.
"Lord Hiashi! Uncle! Uncle, can you hear me?"
Neji was resting Hiashi's head in his lap, fanning his uncle's contorted face with his palm. Hiashi only grimaced a little more before he suddenly relaxed his features. His entire body went limp, head tilting to a side.
Neji stopped fanning and watched in horror. His uncle had clearly taken a turn for the worse. And to complicate matters, he, Hyuuga Neji of the Branch house, had been training with him before he collapsed. They're going to blame me for this…
Images of main house members accusing him of attempted murder of the head of the clan began to fill his mind. It was then that he suddenly became aware of his curse mark. He shuddered.
Gathering his senses however, Neji raised his uncle's head with one arm and, with one swift cascade of movement, gently tossed the limp body over his shoulder.
He ran into the main house.
The doctor raised the Hyuuga leader's hand and, after quick inspection, gently lowered it back into its previous position on the bed. The old man deactivated his byakugan and clicked his tongue.
Neji leaned in a little closer from where he was standing at the foot of Hiashi's bed. "How is he?"
"Worse, obviously," replied the old doctor, knotting his ancient grey eyebrows. "If he goes on like this he might soon find himself confined to his bed at all times."
Neji bit his lip and shot a quick nervous glance at Hinata, who was kneeling beside her father, silently arranging his long hair around his face on the pillow.
"He should have exercised more control when training," the old man continued with a sigh. "Stubborn as always," he grunted. "And I was very clear the other day when I advised him against training or exerting himself physically."
Slowly, painfully, the old man unseated himself and straightened up to stand.
Neji took a few quick steps toward the doctor and firmly took his elbow as he helped the family medic get back on to his feet. The doctor nodded slightly in gratitude. He then added gravely: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to tell you this, but… I have to admit that this case is well beyond my abilities. Like I said before, his is not a simple case of anemia. It's far serious than that. It could be critical in a few months. Or weeks. Give or take."
Hinata looked up wide-eyed at the silver-haired man who was now standing next to his patient, shaking his head silently as he addressed the cousins. Neji lowered his gaze to meet the doctor's.
"H-how serious? What exactly is his affliction? What should we do?" Hinata was still combing her father's hair with her fingers. Her face had lost its color at the doctor's prognosis.
"Whatever it is that he has, it seems to have started to affect some of his vital organs." He gave another quick sigh and shook his head at his patient. "I suggest you take him to the hospital. Soon." And with that the old man picked up his tools from the table nearby and quickly paced out of the room.
The urgency of that word did not escape them.
The door clicked shut behind the man. Neji turned around and fixed his stare on Hinata.
"Hinata sama, should we…?"
Hinata nodded. "Yes. Call Sakura."
Neji frowned. "Are you sure?"
His cousin only nodded. Strands of midnight blue tumbled from the loose bun she wore and framed her face. Her face, which had visibly lost a lot of its color from fear and worry, was a stark contrast to her dark hair. From one angle, Neji thought, it resembled the moon in the night sky.
"You know how he hates common doctors."
Hinata frowned. "Sakura is not a common doctor. She's the best in Konoha."
The corners of Neji's lips slightly curled upwards into an almost inconspicuous smile. Sure, he told himself, Sakura was the best medic in all of Konoha.
"The best in Konoha. Alright. I'll see to it that she is sent for immediately. Do you think she will be available for house calls right now?"
"Yes. Sakura works in the evening on Tuesdays."
Neji turned to leave. There was no point watching and waiting any longer. Lord Hiashi would have to deal with the fact that a 'common' doctor was going to examine him today. The sooner he sent out for her the better. There was no time to waste.
He walked briskly toward the door.
"F-father… you should rest."
"Why am I in my bed?"
"Y-you passed out, it seems. The d-doctor says you had some kind of attack. Don't sit up! Please rest!"
Hiashi's eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline. "An attack?!" His hand instinctively went to the left side of his chest. Was it a heart attack? No, he remembered. The pain was in his side, not his chest. What kind of an attack did he have? What exactly was wrong with him? Why had his health suddenly started to deteriorate? It made him look like an incompetent fool. And that mental image carried a lot of weight when he realized that he still held responsibility and leadership over his clan.
"It wasn't your heart."
Hiashi looked up at his nephew. Neji was eyeing him with concern, obviously not happy about his uncle sitting up in bed and worrying himself in such a condition.
"Yes. Yes I remember." Hiashi was already pulling down the sheets to inspect any damage his body had suffered. "It wasn't my heart. It was in my side, here, I think." He prodded the flesh on the left side of his hip. A dull pain ensued upon contact. He winced.
"There's been some slight bruising." Neji's eyebrows dipped deeper. "You've suffered a slight hemorrhage."
Hiashi's eyebrows twitched ever so slightly. A hemorrhage…
Neji eyed him cautiously. At first glance one wouldn't have detected any change in Hiashi's countenance. His expression was as stony and cold as ever, just like it had always been. But something in those clear white eyes quivered.
Neji frowned. So he is afraid.
Recovering from a moment of silence, Hiashi questioned: "Where is the doctor?"
"He was here a moment ago." Neji was already at the door, his hand resting impatiently on the handle.
Hiashi nodded absentmindedly.
Hinata glanced up at her cousin and signaled to him, with the slightest inclination of her head, to go ahead and inform Sakura. Neji turned the door handle in agreement.
"Where are you going, Neji?"
Pale fingers loosened their hold on the door handle.
An uncomfortable silence pervaded the room at that moment. Neither one of the cousins was going to tell him. They looked at each other slyly, half weary of the conversation that was most definitely going to ensue.
The head of the Hyuuga clan, Hyuuga Hiashi, despised visits from outsiders. He was especially hostile to doctors outside their clan. Doctors possessed an ability that only fuelled his distrust: they were able to read the human body. In other words, they were capable of discovering all of the Hyuuga secrets if they chose to.
It was also for this particular reason that all doctors within the Hyuuga clan were branch house members. The curse mark reminded them that they too would be duly punished if they attempted any mishandling.
The silence was enough for him to figure out what the two young ones were up to. Hiashi's mouth set itself in a straight line. He exhaled audibly.
"I will not allow myself to be examined by just any common doctor. I thought I made myself clear on this topic before. I will not tolerate visits by outsiders into the Hyuuga household."
"But Lord Hiashi --"
"What, Neji? Do you dare disobey my wishes?" Hiashi's gaze was cold. Neji's fingers gripped the door handle tighter in rebellion.
"But! But father, nii-san was --"
"Silence, Hinata!" Hiashi's voice was laced with vexation. He clearly preferred his daughter's company when she was silent. It irked him even more when he realized that his daughter, the heir to the Hyuuga clan, had agreed to such an atrocity.
Choosing to ignore the tone of his uncle's voice, Neji turned the handle and set his right foot out into the corridor.
"Neji." His voice was icy, threatening.
Neji paused, and then swung the door open.
"It is for your own good, uncle."
The door slammed shut.
Pain induced the Hyuuga leader to close his eyes and lay back down to rest. Right now he was too tired to argue.
The touch of his daughter's fingers on his arm comforted him.
He decided that he would not cooperate with the new doctor at all.
"His condition has worsened."
"Has it now?"
"How much do we know about it?"
"The doctors have yet to find out the exact nature of his condition. It seems as though it's a very rare affliction."
"Yes, even old Taro found it to be beyond his scope of abilities."
"Did he now?"
"Did he say it could be foul play?"
"No. I highly doubt it."
"If Taro has stated his resignation on this case then who is to take it up and ensure that Hiashi sama's health does not deteriorate further?"
"That's true. Taro is the best doctor we've ever had."
"There's no need to worry. Hiashi has already been examined by a more skillful medic from the Konoha hospital."
The room fell momentarily silent. The council elders seated around the room all turned to look at the member who had just spoken. He was the mediator of the day's meeting. Looks of shock, incredulity, and disbelief met the solemn gentleman seated at the front of the room. His countenance did not waver despite the overwhelming thickness of tension among the gathering.
One of the elders form the left corner of the room pointed an angry finger at him and shouted: "Are you saying that Lord Hiashi consented to an examination by an outsider?"
Hauro fixed an impassive stare at the man. "Lord Hiashi was in no condition to express his assent or dissent on the matter at the time."
Another member from the middle of the right row spoke. "With whose permission, then, did this outsider gain access to the Lord's rooms?" A chorus of yeahs buzzed around the room. The man continued: "And who is this common doctor that you speak of, Hauro?"
Hauro swept his gaze around the room. "It was suggested by Taro himself. Owing to the apparent seriousness of the situation, Neji was forced to send for Doctor Haruno Sakura without even a moment's notice."
A snort issued from one of the members. Snickers and hmm's filled the atmosphere.
Annoyed by the ensuing negativity of the group assembled, Hauro set his mouth into a straight line. "Also, I believe that it will do us all some good if we reminded ourselves that Haruno Sakura is not merely a 'common' doctor, but a highly skilled medical professional who was trained by none other than the Godaime Hokage. I also wish to add that she is considered to be the best medic in Konoha since Godaime, so I see no reason to doubt her abilities."
Another round of momentary silence gripped the room as Hauro's words sunk into the minds of the men gathered. He sighed a little in relief when he saw the general reaction: many nodded silently while others muttered "that's true" under their breaths.
Just then a seedy voice rose above the others. "While it is reassuring to know that Hiashi sama is being treated by one of the best doctors in Konoha, there is another thing that, unfortunately, has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite a long time now." The old man looked Hauro sternly in the face as he spoke.
Hauro tilted his head questioningly. "And what would that be, Shun san?"
"Neji," the old man replied.
The room fell silent again.
Hauro raised his eyebrows silently. "Neji?"
"Indeed," the seedy voice continued. "Hiashi sama collapsed while they were training together. If you take into account the fact that the two never really had an amicable relationship due to what happened with Hizashi --"
"Shun! What… are you insinuating?" Hauro was wearing a frown now.
"I am only suggesting that the boy be supervised."
"What for? He is no threat to the clan. Besides, Neji has been getting along very well with his uncle ever since his Chuunin exams."
"That is true, but the fact remains that the boy has always been one to rebel. His status as a member of the Branch family makes him even more suspect. You cannot forget what he tried to do to Hinata sama at the Chuunin exams."
The buzz of voices in the room began once again.
"That is true." Hauro pressed a finger to his left temple, trying hard to contain his annoyance. "But I'd like to believe that people are capable of change." How many times had they gone over this topic before?
"You're free to believe what you want to believe Hauro, but the fact that Lord Hiashi suddenly came down with such a condition puts that boy into quite a bit of suspicion."
"Could it be possible that you did not even stop to think that Hiashi sama's condition might have arisen from purely natural causes?" a younger council member said, evidently expressing his annoyance at Shun's unreasonable accusations. "Besides, why Neji? If I wanted to suspect anybody I'd have rather suspected any other Branch member than the boy."
A sneer exuded from the older Shun. The younger member who had spoken earlier merely returned the gesture in a disinterested, stony expression, clearly displeased at the direction the conversation was progressing.
"Gentlemen, that would be enough." Hauro's voice thundered. He glared at Shun before quickly focusing his gaze to the other members. One he had everybody's attention he continued: "Alright, let's just get straight to the point. There is the question of what we will need to do in case the worst happens, which, considering what Doctor Haruno told me, could be quite soon. 'A few months, give or take, unless a cure could be discovered in time'. Those were her exact words."
The men nodded in silence. They were aware that Hiashi may not be able to pull through. If that were to happen, then a new clan leader will be required. It was always better to be prepared rather than risk stumbling into a period of chaos without a leader.
The Hyuugas already had an heir to the prestigious title. The only problem was that the heir was a girl. Hinata needed to marry if she were to take up the position of head.
The council members had to find someone suitable, and from the Main house.
The meeting finally commenced.
"Lord Hiashi, would you please allow me to take another sample of your blood?"
The young doctor was kneeling down beside the stubborn invalid, trying her best to contain the surge of impatience that kept pushing for release.
In response, her patient only stared up at the ceiling from where he lay, white orbs obstinately refusing to make any form of eye contact. It was her fifth visit and he was still persistently trying to push her into oblivion.
A vein somewhere in her forehead throbbed. Okay, let's try this one last time…
"Hiashi sama, would you please --"
"Why would you need another sample of my blood when you've already got four? Don't you think that, in my condition, with all my apparently 'minor' hemorrhages, you should allow me to conserve my blood and not constantly take it away?"
Sakura found herself responding slowly to the new situation. Never had Lord Hiashi spoken so much to her in one session…
"Well," she said. "The reason I require another sample of your blood is because whatever it is that is afflicting you seems to be very active in your bloodstream. Unfortunately, the substance has a tendency to alter its chemical composition and deteriorate quite fast. So if I need to find you a cure I first need to fully understand its nature, which is why I will require more than just one sample of your blood."
"You don't recognize what it is?" Hiashi asked, looking at her from the corner of his eye.
Sakura clenched her fists on her knees. She recognized that tone of voice. It was what Naruto called 'a lordly sneer'. He was exercising his so-called superiority over her by trying to make it look like she didn't really know what she was doing. He clearly did not respect her as a professional.
She sucked in a deep breath before replying: "Although I do have a general idea, it is hard to be certain just yet, owing to its rather unstable properties. All I can say right now is that it could possibly be a rare form of cancer."
Hiashi returned his focus to the ceiling. Sakura bit her lip nervously as she watched him.
He remained quiet for another long moment before emitting an almost inaudible sigh. He brought his arm out from under the blanket and rested it on his side.
Sakura nodded and gently rolled up his sleeve. She tied a piece of tough tubing around his upper arm and tapped firmly on the inside of his elbow, securing a vein. It was rather easy to see the veins in his arm because of the paleness of his skin, but Sakura was prone to following procedure. Within moments the needle was inserted and the sample taken.
Neither doctor nor patient uttered a word either during, or after, the process.
Transferring the sample into a vial coated with anti-coagulant, Sakura got up to leave.
She held up the vial and smiled at Neji and Hinata who were standing at the door.
Both sighed in relief.
Hiashi sat in his bed, propped up against a pillow. He looked around at the council members standing in front of him. Hyuuga Natsu was mouthing something long and boring, and Hiashi conveniently blocked out the man's voice. They were all telling him what he already knew.
Hiashi sighed. It was only a few hours since the Haruno girl had paid him a visit and he was already tired. Couldn't they see that?
"…And that is why, Hiashi sama, we want to know what you think of the matter."
Hiashi snapped back out of his thoughts at the sound of Hauro's deep voice. He blinked, ever so slightly. It was enough to give away the fact that he wasn't really paying any attention to what was being said.
Hauro took in a deep breath, fighting the urge to strike out at him. He repressed the urge and pushed it far, far into the back of his mind. After all, Hiashi was the head of their clan, their leader. There was no way he could strike him without receiving a fatal punishment. Hiashi was probably still extremely strong despite his illness. Yet having to go through another fifteen minutes detailing the council's plans and opinions over again…? He dipped his eyebrows a little. Seriously, Hiashi.
Hiashi, Hizashi, and Hauro had always been close since childhood. Hauro's relationship with Hiashi had grown stronger ever since the day Hizashi died. And just now he realized, as he stood staring at the face of his best friend, how close he was to losing him too. His heart had sunk immediately the day he heard Sakura's words: "A few months, give or take."
It was his opinion that Hiashi was the only one worth talking to from the entire Hyuuga clan. Everybody else was just proud, narrow-minded, and extremely uptight. Hiashi too displayed such features, appearing cold and emotionless most of the time. But years of friendship had taught Hauro better: it was all a mask. He was only playing the part.
The only thing he blatantly disapproved of was Hiashi's treatment of his eldest daughter Hinata. She was weak, there was no doubt, but the child did not need to be put through so much just because she was unable to meet the clan's expectations. He had spoken to Hiashi more than once on this, but had only received a harsh retort: "You are in no position to consider yourself capable of dictating to me how I should bring up my children." But of course Hauro knew the truth. Hiashi was only trying to hide his guilt and resentment towards the fate of his brother's child, who was definitely much stronger than his own daughter. Treating Hinata the way he did was his way of venting out his oppositions to the clan's ridiculous rules and traditions.
And today he was going to have to trespass on his friend's personal life once again: he had to break it to him that Hinata was to be married to Hyuuga Nishi, a man four years older than Hiashi himself. And Hiashi was not going to have any say on the matter.
Hauro's heart was breaking. And so was Hiashi's.
The woman came back down the corridor. A floral print cloth around her forehead hid her curse mark. She made a slight bow. "You may see him now."
Neji nodded and rose from his seat. The woman walked past him and turned a corner.
The jounin silently made his way to his uncle's room. He wondered why he had been summoned. His uncle could have waited to speak to him when he paid him a visit in the evening. Why the urgency? Did Hiashi fear the worst? Did he want to leave him with any last instructions?
Neji contemplated various reasons and possibilities on the way to Hiashi's room.
It was then that he heard quick footsteps running his way. They seemed to be approaching from where Hiashi was resting. He instinctively adopted his fighting stance.
A muffled sob followed the sounds of the rapid footsteps.
Neji frowned, confused, and retracted his attack stance. Sobbing was surely not a good sign. Could it be that Lord Hiashi was…?
"Oh! N-Neji nii-san!"
Neji steadied himself as he recovered from the impact of her shoulder hitting his arm as she bumped into him.
"Hinata sama!" he exclaimed, genuinely surprised. What with all the tension about the health of their clan leader, every Hyuuga, especially the Branch members, were on the alert for possible daring attempts at sabotage. People always targeted the weak. And he had fully expected the footsteps to belong to some intruder with a sinister agenda.
He knew then that it was she who had come out of Hiashi's room. She had also been crying.
His eyes widened at this observation.
"Hinata sama! Is… is everything alright?" he asked, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. His gesture surprised him a little. Seven years ago he would not have even dreamed of extending any kindness towards somebody of the Main family.
Hinata backed away from his touch.
Confused, Neji retracted his hand slowly, showing her that he meant no harm.
She looked away, squeezing the tears inside.
"Hinata sama. Is Lord Hiashi alright?"
Neji sighed inwardly, relieved that his uncle was still alive. What with the way his cousin sister was behaving, anyone would have thought otherwise!
She shook her head, staring at her feet. "He's alright, nii-san. H-he will see you now." Saying which, she turned and started walking away from him. Neji only stared. She seems very upset…
Halfway down the corridor, Hinata paused. Neji watched, motionless, not knowing what to anticipate. Was she going to drop to her knees and start bawling? No, Hinata didn't bawl. She'd probably just cry softly. Why did she stop? Is she going to tell me something?
Neji narrowed his eyes.
Hinata turned around slowly to face him. He tensed. She is going to tell me something!
Contrary to his calculations, however, Hinata started to walk back towards him. Neji couldn't help showing worry and surprise on his face anymore.
She stopped just about two feet away from him.
"H-hinata sama!" he gasped, questioningly.
Her sad white eyes bore into his. Neji could only return the gaze. Never had she looked at him straight in the eyes which such intensity before. The way she looked at him the day they fought during the Chuunin exam preliminaries ten years ago was nothing compared to this.
Today, the expression in her eyes burned into his.
What they were trying to tell him, he had no idea. They were unreadable. It was too intense.
Before he realized it Hinata had already turned around and started walking back to her own quarters. Neji could only stare at her back. Halfway down the corridor she broke into a run, and quickly turned a corner that would lead to her quarters.
Neji headed back to where he was going.
Ino held up the sheet of results she had drawn up and pinned it on to the soft board.
"Look. This is what I've been trying to tell you," she said, pointing to a graph on the sheet she had just hung up.
Sakura squinted up at it, reading the peaks carefully.
"Look at these lines," Ino pointed, tracing a pattern of peaks on the chart. Sakura's eyes widened.
"I know, right? The activity in Hyuuga sama's blood shows considerably high peaks on these two days. But otherwise, activity seems pretty stable."
"And we know that it doesn't really have its origins in the human body, despite its similarities with some of the body's antibodies."
"Uh-huh." Ino twirled a long lock of blonde hair between her fingers. "It's definitely a foreign substance."
"The effect it has on the body mimics that of a carcinogen."
"And its ability to morph and change its chemical composition so quickly makes it so difficult to track."
"Anybody would have mistaken it for cancer…" Sakura gasped and looked at Ino. "Is this….?"
In that moment, both medics came to a shocking realization: attempted murder?